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Do doctors spend too much time with computer systems?

By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) – For each hour that some doctors dedicate to direct affected person care they could spend about 5 hours on different duties, actually because they’re tied up with pc work, a Swiss research suggests.

The outcomes are based mostly on observations of simply 36 doctors-in-training at one hospital in Switzerland. But analysis courting again greater than half a century has documented physicians dedicating an analogous quantity of their workdays to direct affected person care, stated Dr. Nathalie Wenger, lead writer of the present research.

“It has not really changed in 50 years,” Wenger, a researcher on the University Hospital of Lausanne, stated by e mail.

During the research interval, the doctors spent a mean of 1.7 hours per shift with sufferers, 5.2 hours utilizing computer systems and 13 minutes doing each, Wenger and colleagues report within the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Patient care won’t essentially be higher if doctors had much less display time, however chopping again might nonetheless have some benefits, Wenger stated.

“It will clearly improve satisfaction of physicians, reduce their stress and improve medical education by freeing up time for that,” Wenger stated.

For the present research, Wenger and colleagues noticed medical residents for a complete of about 698 hours.

Teams of observers recorded the residents’ actions all through their shifts on the hospital, sorting duties into considered one of 22 totally different classes resembling direct or oblique affected person care, communication, educational or nonmedical work.

Day shifts sometimes lasted 11.6 hours, or 1.6 hours longer than scheduled, the research discovered.

During day shifts, doctors spent about 52 % of their time on actions not directly associated to sufferers corresponding to writing in medical data, collaborating with different clinicians, on the lookout for info wanted to deal with sufferers and handing off care to different suppliers.

Physicians spent about 28 % of their day shifts on direct affected person care together with medical exams and medical procedures and rounds achieved as a part of the residency program to evaluate remedy with colleagues.

They spent solely about 2 % of their time speaking with sufferers and households, and about 6 % of their time both educating, receiving coaching or doing educational analysis.

During shifts, physicians spent as much as about 45 % of their time on computer systems, the research discovered.

Beyond its small measurement and single website, different limitations of the research embrace the truth that residents knew they have been being noticed and should have adjusted their work accordingly, the authors word.

It additionally wasn’t an experiment designed to show how totally different makes use of of doctor time affect affected person outcomes.

Still, the findings add to a rising physique of analysis documenting how much of doctors’ time is taken up by administrative duties, stated Dr. Susan Thompson Hingle, a researcher at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield who wasn’t concerned within the research.

“Having observed residents and talked with residents, I do not think the findings are unique to the Swiss,” Hingle stated by e-mail. “It seems as though the studies continue to confirm the enormous administrative tasks that physicians and physicians in training, regardless of level, clinical venue, or geographic location, are faced with.”

Patients typically complain that doctors don’t spend sufficient time with them and that physicians spend extra time targeted on the pc than on them, Hingle stated.

“When our attention is not on the patient, we miss important non-verbal cues; we are distracted and not actively listening; we miss opportunities to build a trusting, healing relationship with our patient,” Hingle added. “Without that trust, patient adherence is less which impacts patient outcomes, and patient satisfaction is less, which also impacts patient outcomes.”

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, on-line January 30, 2017.

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